It takes a lot to ruffle the feathers of the normally unflappable Germans in the build-up to a major tournament, but an injury to Michael Ballack, their captain, talisman and midfield general, and one to his understudy Christian Traesch left their nation in something of a tailspin. It leaves them with just two out-and-out central midfielders in their squad, something the strong, imposing squads of Australia, Ghana and, perhaps most of all, Serbia may be quick to seize upon.
But Germany, more than anyone, are the masters of getting it right on the night. Their youthful 23-man squad is littered with defenders who are as comfortable at full-back as they are in the centre, forward-thinking players who can play upfront or across the midfield, and they are reaping the benefits of their under-21 team's success at last year's European Championships. Add to that the fact the front pairing of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose have scored over 80 times in internationals, and anyone taking Germany lightly might need to rethink.
Aim: The legendary Franz Beckenbauer is confidently predicting Germany will reach the semi-finals, and they usually do, but first they must avoid the banana skin that is Group D. A potential quarter-final with old foes Argentina awaits.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
PHILIPP LAHM The ever-reliable, rampaging right back played every minute at Euro 2004 and was the only German to play all of their 690 minutes at the 2006 World Cup. Strong in defence and great going forward.
MESUT OEZIL A supremely talented playmaker, Ozil opted to represent the country of his birth ahead of his father's Turkey and was promptly the architect of Germany's win at the 2009 European Under-21 Championship.
LUKAS PODOLSKI A striker traditionally circumspect at domestic level, but explosive and prolific on the international stage. Voted the best young player at the 2006 World Cup and sure to be a constant threat this time around too.
JOACHIM LOEW Replaced Jurgen Klinsmann after the 2006 World Cup and made a spectacular start, leading Germany to the Euro 2008 final. Still, speculation is rife that German FA's technical director Matthias Sammer will succeed him this summer.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
They are aiming to become the first country to pull off a stunning Eurovision Song Contest/World Cup double. Singer Lena completed her part of the bargain; can the football team now make it a glorious summer for Germany?
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Germany's World Cup qualifying highlights
W 6-0 Liechtenstein (A) D 3-3 Finland (A) W 2-1 Russia (H) W 1-0 Wales (H) W 4-0 Liechtenstein (H) W 2-0 Wales (A) W 2-0 Azerbaijan (A) W 4-0 Azerbaijan (H) W 1-0 Russia (A) D 1-1 Finland (H) Qualified ahead of Russia
WORLD CUP BEST
1954, 1974 and 1990: Three-time winners, runners-up in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002 and have now made the World Cup finals 17 times.
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